Fr Mark Montebello disciplined for 'offending Maltese sentiment'

Valetta, Malta - Fr Mark Montebello, a Dominican priest notorious for his controversial views, has been disciplined by his superior for "offending the sentiment of the Maltese" on more than three occasions.

As he was fixing the drainpipes of a family who could not afford a plumber yesterday, Fr Montebello said he was not surprised by the decision taken by the "absolute institution".

In various media appearances, Fr Montebello has said he disagreed with a paedophile register, believed Jesus was in favour of divorce and said Crucifixes did not need to be "flaunted" in public buildings.

"I am not happy but I am not angry and I accept their orders," Fr Montebello said, when asked for a reaction about his superior's orders.

In an article on The Times last Friday and on TV programme Xarabank, Fr Montebello said those who really believed in the cross should not fear its removal. "All Christians should be more content with the spread of Jesus's spirituality and values than by the consolidation of its institutionalisation, which always tends to obliterate the former."

Yesterday, he said he did not regret or take back anything but understood that to get his message across he must work within his parameters. "I am part of a Church that is much larger than this. My allegiance is not to bishops and Popes but to Christ, as brought to me by the Church."

In 2005, Fr Montebello was banned from speaking publicly because he said Pope Benedict's appointment was "a sick joke".

"Even now, we are like we were under the other Archbishop... that there is only one way of being Catholic and only one way of understanding theology. Opinions that are alternative to official opinions are not accepted, full stop."

His provincial has asked to vet all written contributions by Fr Montebello and to be informed about any television invitations.

In a press release issued by the Curia, the Dominican Province said it regretted any confusion and anger caused by Fr Montebello's views and was taking steps to ensure he "recognises and shoulders his responsibilities better".

The Province also showed its appreciation towards other initiatives taken by Fr Montebello relating to the marginalised, detained and victims of criminality.